Instances of child abuse are on the rise across India.
In West Bengal, a woman wing's leader of the BJP was arrested on charges of exerting influence to get government funding and licences for a North Bengal-based NGO, which was held a few months ago for running a child-trafficking racket. She had reportedly approached top leaders of the party in the state for help.
In November last year, the CID unearthed a huge inter-state newborn trafficking racket that was being carried out by two private clinics in Baduria in the state's North 24 Parganas district, with the help of an NGO, for the last three years.
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Unmarried mothers and impoverished parents were trapped and their unwanted newborns were sold to childless couples. Even smuggling of babies after duping their mothers is a common crime.
In Delhi, 26 children were put through horrendous torture if they failed to meet their employer's expectations in a jeans factory located in Seelampur area of the Capital's northeast.
The child labourers, aged between eight and 13, were even beaten with hammer for the slightest of mistakes, including cooking extra rice or failing to pack 10 pieces of jeans in 10 minutes. They were rescued last month.
In India's Deep South, we saw a shocking report of six minor girls staying at an orphanage in Kerala's Wayanad district being allegedly raped over a period of two moths.
The incident came to light only after one of the girls was seen coming out from a shop in the vicinity under suspicious circumstances.
Subsequently, a complaint was lodged with the police. The incident came to light in the wake of a 16-year-old girl being allegedly raped by a church vicar in the same state. The priest was arrested after the girl gave birth.
A lot of arrests and detentions have been made in each of these cases but yet, there is no sign of any decrease in the crime rate. Children continue to be victims of abuse, lust and every other sin under the sun.
Is there no light at the end of the tunnel? Why can't India protect its own children? What are the experts saying?
According to Dr Anjaiah Pandiri, executive director of CHILDLINE India Foundation, the evil trend can be successfully tackled only with growing awareness.
Speaking to International Business Times, India, he said: "Child abuse is not just a phenomenon in India, but across the globe. It can only be successfully dealt with by spreading awareness. Besides, factors like poverty and negligence are also responsible for this shocking state of affairs."
"Govt has a zero-tolerance stand on crimes against children"
But is there a lack of effort on the government's part making the crime go unchecked? Pandiri did not agree that the government is not showing enough intent.
"The Ministry of Women and Child Development led by Maneka Gandhi has taken a strong stand on this. There is absolutely zero tolerance when it comes to crimes against children," he told IBT India.
But then why is that the homes that need to take care of children are turning tormentors? Are they not being supervised properly? The top CHILDLINE India Foundation official did not agree that all homes are doing bad work. He said states like Tamil Nadu and Telangana were doing good in this aspect.
"There are several NGOs, agencies, missionaries that are doing a great work for the children. But yes, we need to ensure that all homes are registered under the ministry and Juvenile Justice Act and have licences. Having the proper infrastructure is also key," he said.
Doesn't the society have a responsibility, too? To this, Pandiri said civil society needed to be more aware about protecting children's rights. He also said that it is very important to have a robust child-protection policy in place.
"Children need to be taught to distinguish between good and bad"
Aruna Diwakar, founder-president of Bengaluru-based NGO Kritagyata Trust feels it is children who have to be trained as well, so that they can make a distinction between 'good' and 'bad'.
"Whatever is happening with them is nothing but sin, by some people who are psychologically sick. We need to make our children aware. And of course, the law has to be stricter," she told IBT India.
Mohua Chatterjee, programme head of NGO Child Rights & You (CRY) Development Support (Eastern Region), Kolkata, said that after the newborn trafficking cases came into the open in Bengal, the issue of violation of children's rights needs to be addressed immediately.
She said despite the government's persistent efforts to improve protective measures for better adoption procedures; lapses are seen, resulting in such incidents.
"Adoption process still a grey area"
"Despite the guidelines and instruments available under the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and ICPS, the technicalities of the adoption process still remain a grey area for prospective parents, who due to lack of proper knowledge often fall prey to evil-doers," she said, adding: "Effective coordination and convergence, coupled with a stringent monitoring mechanism under the purview of ICPS and CARA guidelines, would ensure the required checks and balances while expediting the process of child adoption."